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Google Updates Policy To Allow Hemp, CBD Products with Certification

Google released an announcement this month that explains an update to its “Dangerous Products and Services and Healthcare and Medicines.” As of Jan. 20, 2023, cannabis advertising will be allowed, but currently only in California, Colorado, and Puerto Rico.

This update focuses on FDA-approved CBD-containing products. “Certain formats, including YouTube Masthead, will not be eligible for serving. CBD will be removed from the Unapproved Pharmaceuticals and Supplements list. All ads promoting other CBD-based products, including supplements, food additives, and inhalants, continue to be disallowed,” Google states.

LegitScript and Google have partnered to develop a program of certification for CBD producers that is not edible. Scott Roth, LegitScript’s CEO explained how certification is intended to establish a standard in the cannabis industry. “When people see the LegitScript seal on your product or website, they know that you operate safely and transparently,” said Roth. “In an industry that is still seeing widespread problems with products that are tainted, substandard, or illegal, it’s more important than ever to give consumers confidence that the CBD products they’re purchasing have been properly vetted.”

LegitScript also works with payment service providers like Visa, Google, Bing and Facebook. “LegitScript Certification lets the world know which healthcare merchants, CBD products and websites, and drug and alcohol addiction treatment facilities operate safely and transparently,” the company states in a press release. “The result? Certification can help merchants stand out and grow their online reputation in high-risk sectors. LegitScript is the leading third-party certification expert in these tightly regulated and complex sectors.”

LegitScript will charge a fee for processing and monitoring applicants (although the company’s website says that fees are waived through March 31, 2023). To advertise on Google, applicants can submit their website for LegitScript certification. After LegitScript certifies a website, they will be given “information on demonstrating your certified status,” such as a LegitScript “Seal of Approval” that can be displayed on a certified website.

LegitScript’s starting fees per CBD product vary between $650 for one to five products, decreasing for brackets including $600 for six to 50 products, $550 for 51 to 99, and finally $500 for 100 or more. An annual monitoring fee of $750 to $1,000 is required depending on the amount of CBD products. Full websites require an $800 fee per website, with either a $1,600 annual fee per website, or $2,250 annually for a “probationary website” for websites with “a past history of significant compliance issues.”

Although this is an important step forward in hemp product development, there are no plans to expand the update beyond California.

There have been negative interactions in the past between Google and content related to cannabis. In 2016, one Minnesota-based medical cannabis company fought against Google for banning it from advertising online due to having “dangerous products or services.” That same year, Google saw a 75% increase in cannabis searches online, and allowed games about the War on Drugs to be promoted on Google Play. 

Google Docs labeled some documents in 2017 as unsuitable, even though it was due to a code error that was quickly fixed

Google had announced in July 2019 that cannabis products were to be removed from its app store. Apple took all of their vaping apps out of the iOS store during the peak vaping season later that year.